Obama Promises Sustained US Support to Help Haiti

By: Darlene Superville AP Email
By: Darlene Superville AP Email

WASHINGTON (AP) - Standing alongside two former presidents,
President Barack Obama on Saturday promised that U.S. support for
Haitian relief would continue long after the scenes of death and
destruction fade from the headlines.

"In these difficult hours, America stands united," Obama said.
"We stand united with the people of Haiti, who have shown such an
incredible resilience, and we will help them to recover and to
rebuild."

Obama sent Secretary State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the
Caribbean country for the first look by a top U.S. official at the
devastation. The White House has said Obama had no immediate plans
to visit.

The State Department raised the U.S. death toll to 15, including
one department employee. Twenty-three Americans were seriously
injured in Tuesday's earthquake, and three U.S. government
employees were missing.

The Red Cross has estimated that at least 45,000 people were
killed.

Hillary Clinton arrived Saturday on a Coast Guard C-130
transport plane carrying bottled water, packaged food, soap and
other supplies. She was to depart on another plane carrying about
50 U.S. citizens to Jamaica before her return to Washington.

In Haiti, Clinton was to with President Rene Preval and get an
update on relief efforts. She was accompanied by Rajiv Shah,
administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, who
is acting as the top U.S. relief coordinator.

Obama and former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton met
in the Oval Office for about half an hour to discuss the assignment
he gave them: to lead private fundraising efforts for Haitian
relief, including immediate needs and the long-term rebuilding
effort.

Both men reassured people that money donated through their Web
site, http://www.clintonbushhaitifund.org, would be well spent.

Bush said the best thing people can do is to send money.

"I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water. Just
send your cash," said Bush, who was visiting the White House for
the first time since leaving office in January 2009.

Bill Clinton, who also is the United Nations special envoy to
Haiti, spoke of his decades-long appreciation for the country. The
Clintons honeymooned there, and a church they sat in 34 years ago
is now "a total rubble." He said he had been to hotels that
collapsed and had dined with people who were killed. Clinton also
helped restore democracy to Haiti during his presidency.

"I believed before this earthquake Haiti had the best chance in
my lifetime to escape its history," Bill Clinton said, speaking of
the country's history as one of the world's poorest. "I still
believe that ... but it's going to take a lot of help and a long
time."

In Miami, Vice President Joe Biden and Homeland Security
Secretary Janet Napolitano met with Haitian-American leaders before
visiting an air base where relief supplies are being flown to
Haiti. South Florida has the largest Haitian-American population in
the U.S.

"This is personal," Biden said, touching the arm of White
House political director Patrick Gaspard. The vice president said
Gaspard, who is Haitian-American, had lost relatives in the
earthquake. Biden did not say who those relatives were.

U.S. officials said more food and water was on the way. There
should be 600,000 humanitarian daily rations - basic nutrition
packages that provide 2,300 calories - at Haiti's airport by
Saturday evening, according to Tim Callaghan, the administration
aide helping oversee relief efforts.

Callaghan, who spoke to reporters on a conference call from
Haiti, said water purification units arrived Friday night and that
officials hope they will produce up to 300,000 liters of water.
More water is coming from neighboring Dominican Republic.

National Security Council aide Denis McDonough said on the same
telephone call that 180 tons of relief supplies had arrived in
Haiti, but he didn't have a good breakdown on how much had been
distributed and where.

The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort left Baltimore on Saturday,
headed to Florida to pick up more medical staff before its
scheduled arrival near Haiti on Thursday, said Rear Adm. Victor G.
Guillory, Navy commander for the U.S. Southern Command.

The Navy also will try to get the wrecked seaport in the capital
of Port-au-Prince up and running. Damage to piers and other
facilities have interfered with the distribution of aid. The
salvage ship Grasp was on its way to the capital with divers and
underwater construction teams capable of building temporary piers
and other facilities, said Guillory, speaking on a separate
conference call.

The Navy currently is moving supplies into Haiti from the
aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

About 4,200 U.S. military personnel were operating within Haiti
or from Navy and Coast Guard vessels offshore, the U.S. Southern
Command said. Another 6,300 personnel were expected to arrive by
Monday to help.

Obama said sustained help is on the way to Haiti.

"But what these gentlemen are going to be able to do is when
the news media starts seeing its attention drift to other things
but there's still enormous needs on the ground, these two gentlemen
of extraordinary stature, I think, are going to be able to help
ensure that these efforts are sustained," Obama said of Bush and
Bill Clinton.

After the Asian tsunami in 2004, Bush asked his father, former
President George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton to lead the private
fundraising effort. The elder Bush and Clinton also raised private
money after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.


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